When I was a kid I was a feral thing, spontaneous, uncombed, and feisty. Routinely left unsupervised, I discovered the joys of playing with matches, knives, and road flares. When my family was nearly kicked out of our housing area due to the shenanigans of my brother and I, I channeled my energy into less flammable and bloody pursuits. Hours were spent riding my bike miles across the various towns we lived in with the only rule that I be home by dark. If I became lost, it was my job to become found and to do it by sundown. What I lacked in civility, I made up for in confidence.
In 2013 when I learned the majority of all plants sold at nurseries have been treated with systemic neonicotinoid pesticides, I resolved to grow all my own annuals and to seek out growers who sold clean, pesticide-free plants. Despite my initial fear that I would soon have a garden without any plants, I decided to try anyway. Instead of ignoring the problem and waiting for growers to sell clean plants, I had to create my own solution. If I became lost along the way, I would simply keep pedaling until I figured out how to get home. But this time, I'd have a basket of flowers along for the ride.
Without a fabulous greenhouse or sunroom, I had to get creative if I wanted to be able to grow enough plants to fill all my pots.
I started very small and only had two plant lights last year. Everything I sowed grew. It helped that I only grew plants that are easy to grow.
I turned shelves in our basement into a flower factory. Cheap grow lights are surrounded with tin foil to keep the light from diffusing into the room.
Seeds were sown directly into large plastic drink cups with holes poked in the bottom. Seeds that need darkness to germinate were covered with newspaper while the other cups were given plastic baggie 'greenhouses'. The name of each plant was written on the cup.
What am I growing?
I broke everything down into four groups that can be seen on my page So Seedy. This page also provides links to the seed companies I used as well as updates on how everything is progressing.
I started sweet pea and 'Pow Wow Wildberry' coneflower seeds Jan 1. It was way too early but I was excited.
From top left to right, clockwise: 'Blue Monday' sage, 'Ensign Mix' dwarf morning glories, ammi majus, 'Pacifica' vinca, 'Mammoth' verbena, pink/purple/orange/white gomphrena
'Crimson Celebrity' dwarf hollyhocks, 'Mignon Mix' dahlias, 'Tuscany Lavender' verbena, 'Red Dragon' asarina (vine), 'Cottness Mix' dahlia.
'Serenita Mix' angelonia, 'Persian Carpet' zinnias, 'Goldfinger' dwarf tithonia,
'Zahara Starlight Rose' zinnias, 'Peggy's Delight' zinnias,
'Cosmic Orange/Red' cosmos, 'Sonata Mix' cosmos
Orange Poets Tassel Flower, 'Denver Daisies' rudbeckia hirta, hyssop, centranthus ruber (Jupiter's Beard/red valerian), curly parsely, 'Indian Summer' rudbeckia, 'Irish Eyes' rudbeckia
This is the closest I'll ever come to greenhouse. But it's keeping my sweet peas happy so I'm happy. I'll use it to harden off my seedlings before planting them in the spring.
Almost every sweet pea seed germinated. Once our nights are consistently in the 40's, I'll plant them outside. They've been pinched back multiple times to control their growth.
The dahlias also germinated very quickly and I have about 3 dozen seedlings. I splurged on a seedling heat mat to keep them warm.
The 'Blue Monday' salvia sprouted in just two days! I have no idea where I'm going to put all these seedlings. Many will end up being given away.
This spring instead of worrying that my new plants are filled with pesticides, I'll have over 100 seedlings to chose from. Extras will be given to friends and only shade-loving, non-pollinator supporting plants like coleus and begonias as well as organic herbs will be purchased from my local garden center.
I haven't changed the industry but I've been a voice in the collective scream that is looking for alternatives to poisoned plants. It just took a bit of confidence.
NOTE: My comments on Wordpress blogs are suddenly being directed into Spam folders. If you can't be reached by email or Facebook, I haven't been able to let you know. I've contacted Wordpress but the problem has yet to be resolved.